Athlete Spotlight: Tom Sroka and Shana Alverson

Apr 30, 2015 Jamie Tebaldi
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This week in our SAGL Athlete Spotlight, we hear from Tom Sroka of the Charleston Marauders, and Shana Alverson of the Atlanta Assassins.
What's your day job?
SROKA: I own my own business, The Strength Agenda, where I run a website, put on weightlifting camps, and am a remote strength coach for athletes. I am also on the Outlaw Way Training Camp Coaching Staff.
ALVERSON: I'm the owner of/head trainer at CrossFit East Decatur (since 2008).
How did you hear about grid and what interested you most about it?
SROKA: The NPGL quarterfinal and semifinal matches were in Charlotte last year; I went to watch the matches and really enjoyed watching and cheering on some of my friends.
ALVERSON: I started hearing about grid in late 2013, and I just kind of kept tabs on what was going on since I know Tony Budding from the CrossFit Games. He would share info about it through his social media.
What's your training schedule like?
SROKA: I train anywhere from 6-9 sessions a week focusing on a variety of weightlifting/strength work, barbell cycling, skill work, and conditioning. Rudy Neilsen, from Outlaw, does my programming so whatever he writes down I do, no questions asked. After the season is over I have a laundry list of skill work that I am going to be tackling so I can be more versatile for next season, but for right now that's what I focus on with training.
ALVERSON: I train 4 days a week, do yoga 1 or 2 days and have SAGL matches on Saturdays, currently.
Have you changed your training style at all to be more grid-specific?
SROKA: I used to be a full-time weightlifter so the goals of training were pretty different. I always did some variation of the squat, snatch, and clean & jerk with lots of rest between sets 6 days a week for the past 3 1/2 years. With my new approach to training, there is way more variety and more skills I need to master. It is very rare that I repeat the same exercise in a month, and the rest periods are very short. Basically I used to get a lot of work done and take as much time as I wanted, and now I get the same if not more work done in a much shorter period of time.
ALVERSON: I've definitely tweaked some of my training to incorporate some of the more advanced skills that keep popping up. Training to be fast and training for endurance look very different, and grid is all about SPEED ó so I'm definitely focused on getting faster and stronger!
What is your past experience with sports?
SROKA: In high school, I did football and track and field, in college I was a 3-time All-American Shot Putter, and after college I dabbled in the Highland Games and Strongman before going full time with weightlifting.
ALVERSON: I showed horses from age 8 through college. In high school, I ran track successfully enough to compete at the state level for the 3 years I ran. I started lifting weights in high school and started teaching aerobics at age 19. After college, I got into martial arts and was getting ready to test for my black belt when I moved away from my martial arts school. I was doing some kung fu, some tae kwon do and body-building-type training when I discovered CrossFit in 2008. I've been to the CrossFit Games Regionals 6 times (2009-2014) and competed at the CrossFit Games as an individual 4 times (2009-2012). Grid is a new sport for me and I'm enjoying playing for the Assassins!
Who is your favorite athlete and/or inspiration?
SROKA: Pat Yib is my inspiration, ha ha ha. The dude is a freak. In all seriousness, I have a lot of favorite athletes but two of my all-time favorites are Bill Kazmaier (3-time World's Strongest Man from the 80s) and Brian Oldfield (1972 Olympian and all-around phenomenal athlete). Modern-day inspirations would have to be Mark Bell and Elliott Hulse.
ALVERSON: My favorite athletes are the ones I see in my gym every day. They are a constant source of inspiration and motivation. I love seeing people exceed their own expectations and watching them literally empower themselves. I'm very lucky to get to be a coach and witness their successes.
Favorite fitness brand?
SROKA: Nike, of course.
ALVERSON: Uhhh... Calvin Klein Performance... can I say that?
Do you have any pre-match rituals?
SROKA: I have my usual warm-up routine and drinks I need for matches/training and such but I guess my only "ritual" is my neon yellow and Argyle socks that I have to have on for every match.
ALVERSON: I eat seaweed and tape my hands (not kidding). LOL
What's one of your non-athletic hobbies?
SROKA: Riding my 2002 Honda Shadow 750 (motorcyle) around the back roads by my place.
ALVERSON: I'm a musician. I play guitar and sing. I also LOVE fashion, and I think my Great Danes might have more fans than I do. :)
Any advice for people who are new to grid?
SROKA: My biggest piece of advice is this is not CrossFit entirely, so don't treat it as such. There is no score for gutting out reps or pushing to failure on every race. The races are about teamwork, communciation, and how fast can you do "x" amount of reps so your teammate can transition in. Too many times I see folks (myself included) hit fatigue and drastically slow down the rate they are cycling reps. You need to know where that point occurs with you, get to that point, and then let your teammate take over. Can't be selfish in a situation like that and expect to win.
ALVERSON: Have fun with it and, for goodness' sake, keep your cool on the grid!! When you hear 3,2,1, RACEódon't freak out!! Composure is everything.
How can people follow you?
SROKA: You can check out my business page at www.thestrengthagenda.com
You can find me personally on Facebook: Tom Sroka, Instagram: @SuperSrokus, Twitter: @Srokus, and my athlete page: Tom Sroka-Weightlifter
ALVERSON: IG: shana_a, Twitter: @shanaalverson, Facebook: facebook.com/shana.alverson